As an etiquette and civility consultant, I’m often approached for advice and training on global etiquette. Whether we’re traveling for business or pleasure, most of us want to acknowledge international customs, whether it’s bowing in Japan, extending your right hand and not your left, or learning a few polite phrases in the local language. Civility means having respect for other cultures and not exhibiting any boorish or offensive “ugly American” behaviors.
That’s why it’s so dismaying to see high-profile figures act so negatively towards other countries and cultures. You have President Trump reportedly using insulting expletives to refer to less prosperous nations. Meanwhile, YouTube star Logan Paul has been called out for visiting Japan and mocking those who have died by suicide in its infamous Aokigahara Forest. Video footage also showed Paul engaging in offensive, disruptive, and highly disrespectful behavior during his trip. It was filmed for laughs, all at the expense of the Japanese citizens he encountered. It’s hard to watch and not feel ashamed.
As an avid traveler, I know that much of the joy in exploring the world is seeing how other people live. It presents a chance to understand other cultures, find common bonds, and gain perspective. It’s not about judging, or trying to force your own way of life onto other people. What Paul did was akin to being invited to a dinner party, tracking mud through the house, knocking over a few vases, and spitting out the food.
Say you’re a Methodist and you’ve been invited to a wedding at a Catholic church or a Jewish synagogue. The service may not be what you’re used to, and you may opt to not take communion, but you would still put on a nice outfit and behave. You might even enjoy the different traditions. Whatever you felt, you would show respect; after all, you are a guest. Traveling should be the same.
If you’re going to travel, do it with an open mind, respect, and sensitivity. If you’re going to look down on other cultures, or can’t handle diversity, you might as well stay at home.